Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finding fault with the O's decision-making

Want to know why some are criticizing the J.J. Hardy signing, despite its apparent team-friendly ramifications? Just take a look at who pitched out of the Orioles' bullpen during last night's 15-10 loss to the Red Sox:
  • Troy Patton, 25
  • Jason Berken, 27
  • Michael Gonzalez, 33
  • Mark Worrell, 28
  • Chris Jakubauskas, 32
Patton probably threw the best out of all of them, and Berken was only in the game for two pitches, allowing a hit. But the latter three -- Gonzalez, Worrell, and Jakubauskas -- combined to allow eight runs in the eighth inning, which locked down the game for the Red Sox. Gonzalez and Jakubauskas have been bad all season, but Worrell was just promoted from Triple-A Norfolk, and he didn't look all that impressive either.

So why did I include the ages of those pitchers? Because despite Andy MacPhail's current philosophy to "grow the arms and buy the bats," the O's don't have that many arms to show for it. Yes, I understand that most of the young, high-ceiling pitchers in Baltimore and in the O's organization are starting pitchers, as they should be. Also, there's no sense in promoting pitchers to fill out the bullpen just because they're young and necessarily not ready to be in a major league rotation. But why has it taken so long for a guy like Patton to pitch in Baltimore this season? He seems healthy now, and he's still rather young. He should be given the chance to pitch in more than a few games, even if he pitches poorly.

The O's don't have nearly enough pitching depth. Without a doubt, they still need to get younger and better. It doesn't make much sense to hold onto guys (or pay them a bunch of money, for that matter) who won't help this current team four, five, and six years (etc.) down the road. That's not to say that there can't be a couple of guys like Jakubauskas, Mark Hendrickson, and Worrell in the team's bullpen for various stretches. Every team works with bullpen fill-ins from time to time. But these types of guys show up in the O's bullpen year after year. The only homegrown reliever who's really any good right now is Jim Johnson, and even he should probably be stretched out into a starter if the O's aren't going to deal the 28-year-old. And that's just talking about relievers, who are supposed to be failed starters or guys who can't throw multiple innings at a time. It should be much easier to assemble a decent, young bullpen corps than a competent starting rotation. Yet, the O's can't even accomplish that feat.

Where is all of the pitching talent for a team that annually picks at the top of the draft? Shouldn't someone like Hardy, and others, be used as bait to bring in prospects?

I'm essentially ranting at this point, but here's another questionable move: I turned the game off in the middle of that horrible eighth inning, but apparently Josh Bell pinch-hit for Felix Pie in the bottom of the eighth. He even singled, which is great. But in the ninth, he stayed in to play left field. For one inning, that's not really a big deal. But isn't he a third baseman, and at the very least a corner infielder? Why put him out there at all? That's another situation to examine: If Bell is on the roster, he should play. And if he's not going to play, he should be back in Norfolk playing every day. But he may only be in Baltimore for a few days, so who knows.

Nolan Reimold has been one of the O's most productive hitters this season, and it still took a few injuries to get him in the daily lineup. Vladimir Guerrero and Luke Scott will likely both return from the disabled list soon, and I have no doubt that they'll immediately return to the lineup, moving Reimold back to the bench. What kind of decision is that for a team that's nearly 20 games under .500? Don't they want to know if Reimold is a talented, cost-effective player who they can plug into the lineup for the next few years?

Basically, I don't trust the O's to make sound long-term decisions. And even the short-term ones don't always make much sense.

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